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Prisons and Programmers

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb recently gave his 2019 Indiana State of the State Address and shared with Hoosiers that the Indiana Department of Correction has begun enrolling offenders in programs to train them for high-end and high-demand jobs. https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2019/01/15/indiana-state-address-gov-eric-holcomb/2579543002/ (last visited January 16, 2019). These jobs include positions involving welding and computer programming coding. The State had exceeded and were a year ahead of schedule of their plans to graduate 1,000 offenders by 2020.

The Governor also reported that Indiana prisons began participating with program known as the “Last Mile.” As a part of that program, computer coding programs have been introduced to at least two IDOC facilities. Governor Holcomb announced that Google.org intends to invest $2 million in the Last Mile program to help offenders reintegrate into society and reduce the rate of recidivism. Google.org is a data-drive and human focused philanthropy organization that is powered and run by Google.

IDOC has reported that approximately 34% of their population is functionally illiterate. https://www.in.gov/idoc/2799.htm (last visited January 16, 2019). According to that State agency, research has found that offenders who are employed after their release are less likely to return to prison. IDOC has asserted that increasing educational classes and opportunities while incarcerated increase employment opportunities and ending a repetitive cycle of involvement with the Indiana criminal justice system.

No doubt due in part to the relevant research, the Indiana Legislature has permitted a reduction in an offender’s sentence if the offender successfully completes 1) a general educational development (GED) diploma if the person has not previously obtained a high school diploma, 2) a high school diploma, if the person has not previously obtained a general educational development (GED) diploma, 3) an associate degree from an approved postsecondary educational institution earned during the person's incarceration, and 4) a bachelor degree from an approved postsecondary educational institution earned during the person's incarceration. See I.C. 35-50-6-3.3.

Similarly, the Legislature permits a reduction in an offender’s sentence if he or she successfully completes 1) a certificate of completion of a career and technical or vocational education program approved by the department of correction, 2) a certificate of completion of a substance abuse program approved by the department of correction, 3) a certificate of completion of a literacy and basic life skills program approved by the department of correction, and 4) a certificate of completion of a reformative program approved by the department of correction. See I.C. 35-50-6-3.3.

In addition to the time-cuts received by completing those courses or programs, the completion of those achievements could impact the likelihood of an individual’s petition for modification of his or her sentence. That is, it is possible for an individual to both receive a reduced sentence for completing a program and have his or her sentence modified by the trial court based in part on successfully completing those courses or programs inside the prison facility. Assuming certain requirements are met, a trial court has the ability to modify an individual’s sentence pursuant to Indiana Code 35-38-1-17. A trial court may reduce or suspend the sentence and impose a sentence that the court was authorized to impose at the time of sentencing. However, if the convicted person was sentenced under the terms of a plea agreement, the court may not, without the consent of the prosecuting attorney, reduce or suspend the sentence and impose a sentence not authorized by the plea agreement. The court must explain its reasons in the record.

If you or a loved one have been convicted of a crime and are interested in reducing or modifying a sentence, contact the attorneys at Keffer Barnhart LLP today. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized history. Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.